25. LCD Soundsystem : This Is Happening
LCD Soundsystem : I Can Change
24. Tokyo Police Club : Champ
Tokyo Police Club : Favourite Colour
23. Future Islands : In Evening Air
Future Islands : As I Fall
22. Vampire Weekend : Contra
Vampire Weekend : Giving Up The Gun
21. How To Dress Well : Love Remains
How To Dress Well : Love Remains
20. Warpaint : The Fool
Warpaint : The Undertow
19. jj : jj n° 3
jj : You Know
18. Joanna Newsom : Have One On Me
Joanna Newsom : Good Intentions Paving Company
17. Four Tet : There Is Love In You
Four Tet : Angel Echoes
16. the Morning Benders : Big Echo
the Morning Benders : Excuses
15. Crystal Castles : Crystal Castles (II)
Crystal Castles : Celestica
14. Sleigh Bells : Treats
Sleigh Bells : Rill Rill
13. Local Natives : Gorilla Manor
Local Natives : Wide Eyes
12. The National : High Violet
The National : Bloodbuzz Ohio
11. Sufjan Stevens : The Age of Adz
Sufjan Stevens : Too Much
10. Menomena : Mines
It had been some time since we last heard from these fellas. And to be quite honest, it was well worth the wait. Their creative process didn’t skip a beat, as their shared vocals along with each member’s individual instrumentation continue to be something that makes them unique. Danny Seim, Justin Harris, and Brent Knopf seemed to have been busy with side projects and personal issues since the release of the wonderfully quirky Friend and Foe in 2007, but the talented threesome again stepped up to the plate. Due to these trials and tribulations, it would be safe to assume that this is their most emotionally trying album. On noteworthy track “Killemall”, the intro of swirling keys, driving drums, and undirected horns drop as the vocals kick in. But as the track travels on, this mayhem jumps back to the limelight. Throughout this album, Menomena take us on a ride that is eerily similar to their up and down journey that was the past three plus years. If this isn’t enough to coax you, take a gander at their live show footage, as they bolstered their onstage presence with a fourth member, fellow Portland-ite Joe Haege.
Menomena : Dirty Cartoons
9. Toro y Moi : Causers Of This
Toro y Moi which is Spanish for "bull" and French for "I" is a project started by 24 year old Chaz Bundick from Colombia, South Carolina. Of all the chillwavers, Toro most definitely has the most unique, iconic sound. Though electronic-based, many of the sounds that come into play in Causers have a very organic sound and move in a slow, mellifluous way and then dive into hollow spaces that disappear until the next lick. Chaz does a fantastic job of matching his voice to the sound of everything around him to reel in the listener and lull them into a gorgeous haze of sounds. Once the use of keyboard enters the album on the third song, the unstoppable foot tapping, swaying, and impulsion to bust a move quickly follows. Emotional in both instrumentation and lyrics, "how can I tell if I love you anymore? never mind, I know I do", Mr. Bundick seemingly wears his heart on a sleeve throughout the entire album. Its constant use of slightly skewed sounds, bending and sliding, leaves you feeling almost inebriated and yet still pouring another full glass.
Toro y Moi : Low Shoulder
8. Twin Shadow : Forget
To be quite honest, my/our strong interest in all things Grizzly Bear may have initially given Twin Shadow an unfair advantage. But to set the record straight, George Lewis Jr. has made a name for himself regardless of the fact that Grizzly Bear handy-man Chris Taylor produced his debut album Forget. Lewis has a knack for a catchy hook and tight, snappy drum kicks. What can be described as a new wave sound, this serves as quite the backdrop for his lustful voice. And it is with producer/collaborator Taylor that Lewis can achieve such a balance. Forget is an album about uncertainties, an album about longing, an album about memories. As you will hear from listens of the stand-out track “Slow”, Lewis is in a bind: “I don’t wanna, believe, but be, in love / I don’t wanna, be, believe, in love." Amidst these hesitancies, we find ourselves listening again, keying in on Lewis’ narrative for a more distinct answer. And it is most uncertain that you will be displeased.
Twin Shadow : Castles In The Snow
7. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti : Before Today
The attitude of this album is definitely what sets it apart. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's Before Today may be the perfect touch of lo-fi an album has ever had. Treated far off vocals float over washes of synth and philly groove; exotic vintage synths straddle fuzzy funk guitar chops. "Bright Lit Blue Skies" starts the album off on an upbeat note consisting of a bouncing bass line and harmony filled back vocals in the song's chorus that add dimension to Ariel's already vivd vocals. At times this album almost sounds like it came out during the wrong time period. Exotic noises and voices add to the edginess funk that is delivered with a memorable charisma. "Round and Round" is definitely this album's best defined moment and maybe even this year's best song period. It's a timeless piece that captures the listener's attention immediately and never let's go. The song makes me envision a gangster group of greasers walking in uniform style down a back alley toward a posse of socs until the song's climactic chorus chimes in and the fireworks between the two ensue. I guess this just adds to my point earlier on that Before Today is a timeless record for he ages that could be enjoyed by all generations.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti : Round and Round
6. Caribou : Swim
About two and a half years after 2007's fantastic Andorra, Dan Snaith released another fantastic album with a bit more focus in dance beats. Snaith has an incredible ability to combine bits and pieces of electronic with classic instruments. "Odessa" has a total club-like beat that is provided through a rather unconventional horn sound all the while mixed with various sounds that echo off the main beat and vocals of the tune. His music traps emotions in combination of these sounds and lyrics to provide pivotal moments in pieces that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up. "Kaili" starts off with high tension right away in the synths that move gradually and continue to build more and more until the drop vocal drop of the first choral line in which isn't a drop at all and is in fact Mr. Snaith hitting a high vocal chord that echoes into a background of squealing horns. "Jamelia" has one of the most incredible transitions/drops I've heard in a piece of music in quite some time. The song slowly builds as Mr. Snaith pours out his frustrations with a relationship until a scaling synth drops and he violently releases all of his emotions vocally into a climactic finish to an incredible album that leaves the listener feeling completely satisfied.
Caribou : Jamelia
5. Janelle Monáe : The ArchAndroid
As soon as the needle drops onto this record, the foot doesn't stop tappin. With a dramatic introduction into the album (similar to that of the live show), The ArchAndroid is an ambitious 70 minute 18-track epic comprising two suites, each beginning with an overture, telling a futuristic story starring a messianic android. Monáe describes The ArchAndroid as an "emotion picture," an album with a story arc intended to be experienced in one sitting, like a movie. At times during this album it's easy to lose sight of the conceptual storyline and get lost in the vocals of this fabulously talented young singer as she hits more than a couple home-runs before concluding. "Faster" really gets the album kicked off with a bouncing guitar line that compliments Monáe as she deceivingly keeps her vocal pipes sheathed, instead focusing on deeper, rich notes. On "Cold War", those pipes are released as Monáe delves into the emotional number that lectures to "know what you're fighting for". "Tightrope" is an incredible R&B pop-piece that features Monáe utilizing all of her strengths in skying vocals with strong falsettos, dance moves that make MJ blush while six feet under, and demanding the spotlight as an impressive entertainer and frankly making it her bitch. Finally, "Oh, Maker" reveals Monáe's ability to deliver an emotional performance in a ballad that again utilizes her incredible range as a vocalist. The ArchAndroid is a concept album yes, but unless the climax is Monáe's vocals, I missed the plot.
Janelle Monáe : Cold War
Janelle Monáe : Tightrope (Feat. Big Boi)
4. Arcade Fire : The Suburbs
Arcade Fire never aim for anything less than epic. The Suburbs is no exception with 16 tracks and a full hour of listening. This quality helps form what is Arcade Fire and their endearment by fans. It's also a lot to live up to, yet The Suburbs shows that AF can still make sumptuous statements without sounding like they're carrying the weight of the world. The album's lyrical content is inspired by band members Win and William Butler's upbringing in the suburbs of Houston. According to Win Butler, the album "is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs - it's a letter from the suburbs." The tension throughout this album reaches different climaxes that shine and show off some of Arcade Fire's best to offer. The album features tunes with classic AF sound like "Ready To Start" and "We Used To Wait" that invoke heavy chords flowing into string arrangements to form emotional sequences that AF listeners are well acquainted with. The album also introduces a new electronic driven direction in "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) as Regine takes lead vocals on the almost Knife-esque tune that tackles the issue of suburbanization and it's engulfing of today's society. The Suburbs shows Arcade Fire in classic form and for listeners across the globe, it marks another satisfied chapter in their listening experience.
Arcade Fire : Ready To Start
Arcade Fire : Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
3. Deerhunter : Halcyon Digest
Bradford Cox is one of the most proficient music makers since Deerhunter and Atlas Sound jumped on the scene about 5 years ago. He has a talent for the obscure, which seems pretty fitting for his physical nature. Amidst his obscurities, however, Halcyon Digest is Deerhunter's most accessible album to date. It takes a bit of a downtempo and stripped down approach from previous albums, which serves the band and listener quite well. One may see it as a band going in a different direction, or, more appropriately, that the side projects of Mr. Cox have positively impacted the works within his primary band. Bedroom music is nearly synonymous with Bradford and this album has a bit of that appeal. Album singles "Revival" and "Helicopter" are both terrific in their own regard. "Revival" has a southern gospel folk-lore to it while "Helicopter" adds some resonating electronic effects while still remaining minimalistic. But it is the way that the album finishes should be mentioned more than anything else. The last six tracks filter perfectly into the closer "He Would Have Laughed", which gently drives on for over 7 minutes all the while leaving us asking for more as it abruptly closes. This album revolves around the idea of excitement; for the band, for those who have listened, and most importantly, for those who are about to embark on this journey.
Deerhunter : Coronado
Deerhunter : Desire Lines
2. Big Boi : Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
Many know of Big Boi as the other half of the sensational OutKast duo. After this year, it would appear that he has shut down each and every "other guy" comment that may have been directed his way. This is one of the most enjoyed hip hop albums by our ears over the past couple years because it has appeal to any listener. It's got your club jam in "Tangerine", your feel good tracks in "Shutterbug" and "daddy fat sex" and your immaculate collaborations in "For your Sorrows" and "Shine Blockas". But this isn't a typical hip hop album from a typical hip hop artist. Big Boi has created an original and innovative album on his own amidst release date delays and a past format that worked (OutKast). Another factor that makes this hip hop album far different from its peers is the minimal reference to drugs and crime. Yes, there are mentions of it and these are some elements that make hip hop so enjoyable, but Big Boi does it with a different template. Let's just say that a future OutKast reunion should remind you that the duo is just that: both Andre 3000 AND Big Boi/Sir Luscious/General Patton.
Big Boi : Shutterbug (Feat. Cutty)
Big Boi : Shine Blockas (Feat. Gucci Mane)
1. Beach House : Teen Dream
Understandably drawing comparisons to great vocalists of the past in Stevie Nicks and Nico, the new direction of Beach House's sound has helped Legrand to realize the potential of her voice. With that said, I cannot help but find an ignited passion in Legrand's vocal delivery that never appeared to me before or at least not nearly on the level that it can be heard throughout Teen Dream. Passion is the driving force behind what makes Teen Dream a beautiful piece of artwork for the ages. The topics that are covered in the lyrics are consistent through out this album in it's entirety. Relatable for anyone who has ever been in love, the listener can't help but feel a burning cavity in their chest while our hearts melt as we listen to Legrand's vocals tear us apart emotionally whether it's because we are listening to her bare her soul in heart-clenching fashion or if it's relating with what she's singing of to our own relationships with loved ones. The lyrics of Teen Dream have an uncanny ability of capturing the various emotions and feelings of love. "Stand beside it, we can't hide the way it makes us glow, it's no good unless it grows, feel this burning, love of mine" Legrand declares and goes on to let her lover know "I'll take care of you, if you ask me to, in a year or two." Whether it's the telling of new found love, the terrible feeling of infidelity, emotional break-ups, or growing old together, Teen Dream covers it and in a fashion that at times is almost too real.
This is an album to be treasured and listened to at high volumes late into the night while lying on your bed musing about the feelings described in this album and your relation to them. Teen Dream is a passionate album about love and it's relatable feelings that have the ability to connect with people on an emotional level. It's an album that will be enjoyed by many for years to come.
"There's something wrong with our hearts when they beat pure they stand apart
In the black room, the light, watch the seabird fall
Real love, it finds you somewhere with your back to it"
Beach House : Norway
Beach House : Walk In The Park
Beach House : 10 Mile Stereo
Beach House : Real Love